The game started for the Tar Heels in impressive fashion. UNC ripped off eleven straight points to open the game and led 19-3 after the first five minutes with James Michael McAdoo and Leslie McDonald combining for 15 points. Then the offense came back down to earth with the speed of a falling anvil. Part of that was Maryland got their offense going but on UNC's side the rotation of subs failed to really produce anything. At the 14:27 mark with UNC up 19-6 McAdoo, McDonald and Kennedy Meeks came out of the game. By the time the starting lineup rotated back into the game the lead was down to nine and minutes later Maryland would cut it to three.
During that stretch UNC got very little production from the bench outside of Brice Johnson's scoring two points. Isaiah Hicks attempted two jumpers and missed both and the Tar Heel stopped attacking the rim settling for jump shots or simply turning the ball over. McAdoo's nine point in the first five minutes were his only first half points and the junior forward only took one shot over the final 15 minutes of the half. For most of the remainder of the half UNC was out of sorts offensively and unable to capture the flow which opened up the 16 point lead earlier in the half. That is until a late 11-2 run turned a three point lead into a 12 point halftime edge. Johnson, who returned to the game after McAdoo picked up his second foul was a huge part of that run with six points. Paige chipped in the other five including a three to finish the half with seven points.
The second half was much more of a back-and-forth affair with both teams shooting the ball extremely well at times. It also marked yet another appearance of Second Half Marcus Paige. The sophomore guard once again had one of his patented post-halftime explosions with 18 points on 5-8 shooting and 3-4 from three. During a key stretch midway through the second half, Paige scored nine straight and 13 of UNC's 15 points to help maintain a ten point UNC lead. Johnson also had one of his best outings since ACC play started finishing with 19 points and hitting all eight of his shot attempts.Paige and Johnson combined to score 44 of UNC's 75 points. McAdoo has 12 points and eight rebounds while McDonald scored nine.
Not to be overshadowed, J.P. Tokoto had a "stat stuffer" game with nine rebounds, six assists, four steals and made a great block early in the first half after rotating over to cover Meeks' man after the freshman showed on a screen. While much attention will be given to the play of McAdoo, Paige and Johnson, Tokoto's may have been indicative of how the whole team played. At some point talking about this team's renewed intensity and effort will become unnecessary however it would be remiss not to mention it. UNC players continue to play with reckless abandon with many plays not showing up in the stat sheet. Roy Williams even said as much noting that when commenting on McAdoo's play.
"James Michael [McAdoo] is really playing hard. I don't think James Michael had a game tonight that was anything like his effort showed. His effort has been really important to us the past five or six games."
The big takeaway from this game is how UNC responded when they were repeatedly pushed by Maryland. This was a tough, physical game in many ways and every time Maryland drew close, UNC found a way to answer the call. Also of note is UNC controlling the boards in the second half. Maryland outrebounded UNC 22-20 in the first half. The Heels flipped that around to end the game with a 40-32 edge on the boards and did not allow a single Terp offensive rebound in the final twenty minutes. The only true complaint is the free throw shooting was again a major issue. UNC shot 19-37 from the line and players not named Marcus Paige were 10-26.
The Tar Heels move to 5-4 in ACC play and face a trip to Notre Dame this Saturday to run the winning streak to five games before hosting Duke next Wednesday.